Cognitive enhancements

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Cognitive enhancements can be defined as any subjective effect which increases or raises the intensity of a facet of a person's cognition.

This page lists and describes the various cognitive enhancements which can occur under the influence of certain psychoactive compounds.

Analysis enhancement

Main article: Analysis enhancement

Analysis enhancement is a perceived improvement of a person's overall ability to logically process information[1][2][3] or creatively analyze concepts, ideas, and scenarios. This effect can lead to a deep state of contemplation which often results in an abundance of new and insightful ideas. It can give the person a perceived ability to better analyze concepts and problems in a manner which allows them to reach new conclusions, perspectives, and solutions which would have been otherwise difficult to conceive of.

Although this effect will often result in deep states of introspection, in other cases it can produce states which are not introspective but instead result in a deep analysis of the exterior world, both taken as a whole and as the things which comprise it. This can result in a perceived abundance of insightful ideas and conclusions with powerful themes pertaining to what is often described as "the bigger picture". These ideas generally involve (but are not limited to) insight into philosophy, science, spirituality, society, culture, universal progress, humanity, loved ones, the finite nature of our lives, history, the present moment, and future possibilities.

Cognitive performance is undeniably linked to personality,[4] and it has been repeatedly shown that psychedelics alter a user's personality for the long term. Experienced psychedelics users score significantly better than controls on several psychometric measures.[5]

Analysis enhancement is often accompanied by other coinciding effects such as stimulation, personal bias suppression, conceptual thinking, and thought connectivity. It is most commonly induced under the influence of moderate dosages of stimulant and nootropic compounds, such as amphetamine, methylphenidate, nicotine, and caffeine.[1][3] However, it can also occur in a more powerful although less consistent form under the influence of psychedelics such as certain LSD, psilocybin, and mescaline.[5]

Anxiety

Main article: Anxiety

Anxiety is the experience of negative feelings of apprehension, worry, and general unease.[6] These feelings can range from subtle and ignorable to intense and overwhelming enough to trigger panic attacks or feelings of impending doom. Anxiety is often accompanied by nervous behaviour such as restlessness, difficulty concentrating, irritability, and muscular tension.[7]

Fear is the emotional response to real or perceived imminent threat, whereas anxiety is anticipation of future threat. Obviously, these two states overlap, but they also differ, with fear more often associated with surges of autonomic arousal necessary for fight or flight, thoughts of immediate danger, and escape behaviors, and anxiety more often associated with muscle tension and vigilance in preparation for future danger and cautious or avoidant behaviors.[7][8] This focus of anticipated danger may be internally or externally derived.[6]

Psychoactive substance-induced anxiety can be caused as an inescapable effect of the drug itself,[7] by a lack of experience with the substance or its intensity, as an enhancement of a pre-existing state of mind, or by the experience of negative hallucinations.

Anxiety is often accompanied by other coinciding effects such as depression and irritability. It is most commonly induced under the influence of moderate dosages of hallucinogenic compounds, such as cannabinoids,[9] psychedelics,[10] dissociatives, and deliriants.[11] However, it can also occur during the withdrawal symptoms of GABAergic depressants[12] and during stimulant comedowns.[13]

Creativity enhancement

Creativity enhancement is a perceived increase in one's capability to imagine new ideas, create art, or think about existing concepts in a novel manner.[14][15][16] This effect is particularly useful to artists of any sort as it can help a person overcome creative blocks on existing projects and induce inspiration for entirely new projects. Creativity enhancement can make imaginative activities more enjoyable and effortless in the moment and the inspiration from it can benefit the individual even after the effect has worn off.

A well-known example of psychedelic creativity enhancement comes from the Nobel Prize winning chemist Dr. Kary Mullis, who invented a method for copying DNA segments known as the PCR and is quoted as saying: "Would I have invented PCR if I hadn't taken LSD? I seriously doubt it. I could sit on a DNA molecule and watch the polymers go by. I learned that partly on psychedelic drugs".[17] In addition, although dubious, it has been claimed Francis Crick experimented with LSD during the time he helped elucidate the structure of DNA.[18]

Creativity enhancement is often accompanied by other coinciding effects such as thought connectivity, motivation enhancement, personal bias suppression, analysis enhancement, and thought acceleration in a manner which further amplifies a person's creativity. It is most commonly induced under the influence of moderate dosages of psychedelic compounds, such as LSD, psilocybin, and mescaline.[19][20][21] However, it can also occur to a lesser extent under the influence of cannabinoids,[22][23] dissociatives,[24] and stimulants.

Dream potentiation

Main article: Dream potentiation

Dream potentiation is an effect which increases the subjective intensity, vividness, and frequency of sleeping dream states.[25][26] This effect also results in dreams having a more complex and incohesive plot with a higher level of detail and definition.[26] Additionally, the effect causes a greatly increased likelihood of them becoming lucid dreams.

Dream potentiation is most commonly induced under the influence of moderate dosages of oneirogenic compounds, a class of hallucinogen that is used to specifically potentiate dreams when taken before sleep.[27] However, it can also occur as a residual side effect from falling asleep under the influence of an extremely wide variety of substances. At other times, it can occur as a relatively persistent effect that has arisen as a symptom of hallucinogen persisting perception disorder (HPPD).

Ego inflation

Main article: Ego inflation

Ego inflation is an effect that magnifies and enhances one's own ego and self-regard in a manner which results in feeling an increased sense of confidence, superiority, and general arrogance.[28] During this state, it can often feel that one is considerably more intelligent, important, and capable in comparison to those around them. This occurs in a manner which is similar to the psychological condition known as narcissistic personality disorder.[29]


At lower levels, this experience can result in an enhanced ability to handle social situations due to a heightened sense of confidence.[30] However, at higher levels, it can result in a reduced ability to handle social situations due to magnifying egoistic behavioural traits that may come across as distinctly obnoxious, narcissistic, and selfish to other people.

It is worth noting that regular and repeated long-term exposure to this effect can leave certain individuals with persistent behavioural traits of ego inflation, even when sober, within their day to day life.

Ego inflation is often accompanied by other coinciding effects such as disinhibition, irritability, and paranoia in a manner which can lead to destructive behaviors and violent tendencies.[30] It is most commonly induced under the influence of moderate dosages of stimulant compounds, particularly dopaminergic stimulants such as methamphetamine and cocaine.[28][30][31][32] However, it may also occur under the influence of other compounds such as GABAergic depressants[28] and certain dissociatives.

Emotion enhancement

Main article: Emotion enhancement

Emotion enhancement is an effect which greatly amplifies and enhances a person's current emotional state beyond normal levels of intensity.[33][34][35]

Unlike many other subjective effects such as euphoria or anxiety this effect does not actively induce specific emotions regardless of a person's current state of mind and mental stability. Instead, it works by passively amplifying and enhancing the genuine emotions that a person is already feeling prior to ingesting the drug or prior to the onset of this effect. This causes emotion enhancement to be equally capable of manifesting in both a positive and negative direction.[33][35][36]

For example, an individual who is currently feeling somewhat anxious or emotionally unstable may become overwhelmed with intensified negative emotions, paranoia, and confusion. In contrast, an individual who is generally feeling positive and emotionally stable is more likely to find themselves overwhelmed with states of emotional euphoria, happiness, and feelings of general contentment. The intensity of emotional states felt under emotion enhancement can shape the tone of a trip and predispose the user to other effects, such as mania or unity in positive states and thought loops or feelings of impending doom in negative states.[35]

Emotion enhancement is most commonly induced under the influence of moderate dosages of psychedelic compounds, such as LSD, psilocybin, and mescaline.[33][34][35] However, it can also occur under the influence of cannabinoids, GABAergic depressants,[37][38] and stimulants.[36][39]

Empathy, affection, and sociability enhancement

Empathy, affection, and sociability enhancement is the experience of a mind state which is dominated by intense feelings of compassion, talkativeness, and happiness.[40][41][42] The experience of this effect creates a wide range of subjective changes to a person's perception of their feelings towards other people and themselves. These are described and documented in the list below:

  • Increased sociability and the feeling that communication comes easier and more naturally.
  • Increased urge to communicate or express one's affectionate feelings towards others, even if they happen to be strangers.
  • Increased feelings of empathy, love, and connection with others.
  • Increased motivation to resolve social conflicts and improve interpersonal relationships.
  • Decreased negative emotions and mental states such as stress, anxiety, and fear.
  • Decreased insecurity, defensiveness, and fear of emotional injury or rejection from others.
  • Decreased irritability, aggression, anger, and jealousy.

Empathy, affection, and sociability enhancement is often accompanied by other coinciding effects such as stimulation, personal bias suppression, motivation enhancement, and anxiety suppression. It is most commonly induced under the influence of moderate dosages of entactogenic compounds such as MDMA,[43][44] 4-FA,[45][46] and 2C-B.[47][48] However, it can also subtly occur to a much lesser extent under the influence of GABAergic depressants, and certain stimulants.[39]

Focus enhancement

Main article: Focus enhancement

Focus enhancement is the experience of an increased ability to selectively concentrate on an aspect of the environment while ignoring other things. It can be best characterized by feelings of intense concentration which can allow one to continuously focus on and perform tasks which would otherwise be considered too monotonous, boring, or dull to not get distracted from.[49][50]

The degree of focus induced by this effect can be much stronger than what a person is capable of sober. It can allow for hours of effortless, single-minded, and continuous focus on a particular activity to the exclusion of all other considerations such as eating and attending to bodily functions. However, although focus enhancement can improve a person’s ability to engage in tasks and use time effectively, it is worth noting that it can also cause a person to focus intensely and spend excess time on unimportant activities.

Focus enhancement is often accompanied by other coinciding effects such as motivation enhancement, thought acceleration, and stimulation. It is most commonly induced under the influence of moderate dosages of stimulant and nootropic compounds such as amphetamine,[51] methylphenidate,[52] modafinil,[53] and caffeine.[54][55] However, it is worth noting that the same compounds which induce this mind state at moderate dosages will also often result in the opposite effect of focus suppression at heavier dosages.[56]

Immersion enhancement

Main article: Immersion enhancement

Immersion enhancement is an effect which results in a pronounced increase in one's tendency to become fully captivated and engrossed by external stimuli such as film, TV shows, video games, and various other forms of media.[57][58][59][60] This greatly increases one's suspension of disbelief, increases one’s empathy with the characters, suppresses one's memory of the "outside world", and allows one to become engaged on a level that is largely unattainable during everyday sober living.

At its highest point of intensity, immersion enhancement can reach a level in which the person begins to truly believe that the media they are consuming is a real-life event that is actually happening in front of them or is being relayed through a screen. This is likely a result of the effect synergizing with other accompanying components such as internal or external hallucinations, delusions, memory suppression, and suggestibility enhancement. Immersion enhancement often exaggerates the emotional response a person has towards media they are engaged with. Whether or not this experience is enjoyable can differ drastically depending on various factors such as the emotional tone and familiarity of what is being perceived.

Immersion enhancement is most commonly induced under the influence of moderate dosages of dissociative compounds, such as ketamine, PCP, and DXM. However, it can also occur to a lesser extent under the influence of psychedelics[60] and cannabinoids.

Increased music appreciation

Increased music appreciation is a general sense of an increased enjoyment of music. When music is listened to during this state, not only does it subjectively sound better, but the perceived music and lyrical content may have a profound impact on the listener.[33][61][62][63][64]

This experience can give one a sense of hyper-awareness of every sound, lyric, melody, and complex layer of noise within a song in addition to an enhanced ability to individually comprehend their significance and interplay. The perceived emotional intent of the musician and the meaning of the music may also be felt in a greater level clarity than that which is attainable during everyday sober living.[62] This effect can result in the belief, legitimate or delusional, that one has connected with the “true meaning” or “spirit” behind an artist’s song. During particularly enjoyable songs, this effect can result in feelings of overwhelming harmony[64] and a general sense of appreciation that can leave the person with a deep sense of connection towards the artist they are listening to.

Increased music appreciation is commonly mistaken as a purely auditory effect but is more likely the result of several coinciding components such as novelty enhancement, personal meaning enhancement, emotion enhancement, and auditory enhancement. It is most commonly induced under the influence of moderate dosages of hallucinogenic compounds, such as psychedelics,[33][63][65] dissociatives,[66] and cannabinoids.[62] However, it can also occur to a lesser extent under the influence of stimulants[62][65] and GABAergic depressants.

Increased sense of humor

Increased sense of humor is a general enhancement of the likelihood and degree to which a person finds stimuli to be humorous and amusing. During this state, a person's sensitivity to finding things funny is noticeably amplified, often to the point that they will begin uncontrollably laughing at trivial things without any intelligible reason or apparent cause.[67][68][69][70]

In group settings, the experience of witnessing another person who is laughing intensely for no apparent reason can itself become a contagious trigger which induces semi-uncontrollable laughter within the people around them. In extreme cases, this can often form a lengthy feedback loop in which people begin to laugh hysterically at the absurdity of not being able to stop laughing and not knowing what started the laughter to begin with.

Increased sense of humor is often accompanied by other coinciding effects such as emotion enhancement and novelty enhancement. It is most commonly induced under the influence of moderate dosages of certain hallucinogenic compounds, such as psychedelics, mescaline,[71] and cannabinoids.[67][72] However, it can also occur to a much lesser extent under the influence of stimulants,[73] GABAergic depressants, and dissociatives.[67][72]

Irritability

Main article: Irritability

Irritability is the pervasive and sustained emotional state of being easily annoyed and provoked to anger.[74] It may be expressed outwardly in the cases of violence towards others, or directed inwards towards oneself in the form of self-harm.[75]

This effect, especially when strong, can sometimes cause violent or aggressive outbursts in a small subset of people who may be predisposed to it. The chances of somebody responding in such a way differs wildly between people and depends on how susceptible an individual is to irritability and how well they cope with it. It is also worth noting that this typically only affects those who were already susceptible to aggressive behaviours. However, regardless of the person, this effect results in a lower ability to tolerate frustrations, negative stimuli, and other people. A person undergoing this effect may be prone to lashing out at others, fits of anger, or other behaviours that would be uncharacteristic for them sober.

Irritability is often accompanied by other coinciding effects such as anxiety, paranoia, and ego inflation. It is most commonly induced during the after effects of heavy dosages of stimulant compounds, such as cocaine,[76] methamphetamine,[77] and methylphenidate.[78] However, it can be a withdrawal symptom of almost any substance, and can to a lesser extent present itself during alcohol intoxication.[79]

Memory enhancement

Main article: Memory enhancement

Memory enhancement is an improvement in a person's ability to recall or retain memories.[80][81][82][83] The experience of this effect can make it easier for a person to access and remember past memories at a greater level of detail when compared to that of everyday sober living. It can also help one retain new information that may then be more easily recalled once the person is no longer under the influence of the psychoactive substance.

Memory enhancement is often accompanied by other coinciding effects such as analysis enhancement and thought acceleration. It is most commonly induced under the influence of moderate dosages of stimulant and nootropic compounds, such as methylphenidate,[84] caffeine,[82] Noopept,[85] nicotine,[86] and modafinil.[87]

Types

Different substances can enhance different kinds of memory with some considerable overlap. Generally, there are three types:

  • Long-term memory: A vast store of knowledge and a record of prior events.[88]
  • Short-term memory: Faculties of the human mind that can hold a limited amount of information in a very accessible state temporarily.[88][89][90]
  • Working memory: Information used to plan and carry out behavior. Not completely distinct from short-term memory, it's generally viewed as the combination of multiple components working together. Measures of working memory have been found to correlate with intellectual aptitudes (and especially fluid intelligence) better than measures of short-term memory and, in fact, possibly better than measures of any other particular psychological process. Both storage and processing have to be engaged concurrently to assess working memory capacity, which relates it to cognitive aptitude.[88][89][90][91][92]

Motivation enhancement

Motivation enhancement is an increased desire to perform tasks and accomplish goals in a productive manner.[93][94][95] This includes tasks and goals that would normally be considered too monotonous or overwhelming to fully commit oneself to.

A number of factors (which often, but not always, co-occur) reflect or contribute to task motivation: namely, wanting to complete a task, enjoying it or being interested in it.[95] Motivation may also be supported by closely related factors, such as positive mood, alertness, energy, and the absence of anxiety. Although motivation is a state, there are trait-like differences in the motivational states that people typically bring to tasks, just as there are differences in cognitive ability.[94]

Motivation enhancement is often accompanied by other coinciding effects such as stimulation and thought acceleration in a manner which further increases one's productivity. It is most commonly induced under the influence of moderate dosages of stimulant and nootropic compounds, such as amphetamine,[94][96] methylphenidate,[94] nicotine,[97] and modafinil.[98] However, it may also occur to a much lesser extent under the influence of certain opioids,[99][100] and GABAergic depressants.[99]

Novelty enhancement

Main article: Novelty enhancement

Novelty enhancement is a feeling of increased fascination[101], awe,[101][102][103] and appreciation[103][104] attributed to specific parts or the entirety of one's external environment. This can result in an often overwhelming impression that everyday concepts such as nature, existence, common events, and even household objects are now considerably more profound, interesting, and significant.[105]

The experience of this effect commonly forces those who undergo it to acknowledge, consider, and appreciate the things around them in a level of detail and intensity which remains largely unparalleled throughout every day sobriety. It is often generally described using phrases such as "a sense of wonder"[101][103] or "seeing the world as new".[104]

Novelty enhancement is often accompanied by other coinciding effects such as personal bias suppression, emotion enhancement and spirituality enhancement in a manner which further intensifies the experience. It is most commonly induced under the influence of moderate dosages of psychedelic compounds, such as LSD, psilocybin, and mescaline. However, it can also occur to a lesser extent under the influence of cannabinoids, dissociatives, and entactogens.

Personal meaning enhancement

Personal meaning enhancement (also known as aberrant salience) is the experience of a considerably increased sense of personal significance becoming attributed to innocuous situations, and coincidences.[106][107][108][109][110] Trivial observations not usually noticed may seem connected, and a subjective state of "seeing solutions" might evolve to one of seeing problems, ultimately arriving at a full-fledged paranoid psychosis.[105] For example, one may feel that the lyrics of a song or events in a film directly relate to their life in a meaningful and distinct manner that is not usually felt during everyday sobriety. This feeling can continue to occur even when it is rationally understood that the external stimuli does not genuinely relate to the person experiencing it in such a direct manner.

At its highest level, this effect will often synergize with delusions in a manner which can result in one genuinely believing that innocuous events are directly related to them.[106] For example, one may begin to believe that the plot of a film is about their life or that a song was written for them. This phenomenon is well established within psychology and is commonly known as a "delusion of reference."[111][112]

Suggestibility enhancement

Suggestibility enhancement is an increased tendency to accept and act on the ideas or attitudes of others.[113][114] A common example of suggestibility enhancement in action would be a trip sitter deliberately making a person believe a false statement without question simply by telling it to them as true, even if the statement would usually be easily recognizable as impossible or absurd. If this is successfully accomplished, it can potentially result in the experience of relevant accompanying hallucinations and delusions which further solidify the belief which has been suggested to them.

Suggestibility enhancement most commonly occurs under the influence of heavy dosages of hallucinogenic compounds, such as psychedelics, dissociatives, deliriants, and cannabinoids. This holds particularly true for users who are inexperienced or currently undergoing delusions and memory suppression. It's worth noting that this effect has been studied extensively by the scientific literature and has a relatively large body of data confirming its presence across multiple hallucinogens. These include LSD,[115] mescaline,[113] psilocybin,[113] cannabis,[116] ketamine,[117] and nitrous oxide.[118] However, anecdotal reports suggest that it may also occur to a lesser extent under the influence of GABAergic depressants such as alcohol and benzodiazepines.

Thought acceleration

Main article: Thought acceleration

Thought acceleration (also known as racing thoughts)[119] is the experience of thought processes being sped up significantly in comparison to that of everyday sobriety.[120][121] When experiencing this effect, it will often feel as if one rapid-fire thought after the other is being generated in incredibly quick succession. Thoughts while undergoing this effect are not necessarily qualitatively different, but greater in their volume and speed. However, they are commonly associated with a change in mood that can be either positive or negative.[119][122]

Thought acceleration is often accompanied by other coinciding effects such as stimulation, anxiety, and analysis enhancement in a manner which not only increases the speed of thought, but also significantly enhances the sharpness of a person's mental clarity. It is most commonly induced under the influence of moderate dosages of stimulant and nootropic compounds, such as amphetamine, methylphenidate, modafinil, and MDMA. However, it can also occur under the influence of certain stimulating psychedelics such as LSD, 2C-E, DOC, AMT.

Thought connectivity

Main article: Thought connectivity

Thought connectivity is an alteration of a person's thought stream which is characterized by a distinct increase in unconstrained wandering thoughts which connect into each other through a fluid association of ideas.[35][123][124][125] During this state, thoughts may be subjectively experienced as a continuous stream of vaguely related ideas which tenuously connect into each other by incorporating a concept that was contained within the previous thought. When experienced, it is often likened to a complex game of word association.

During this state, it is often difficult for the person to consciously guide the direction of their thoughts in a manner that leads into a state of increased distractibility.[35] This will usually also result in one's train of thought contemplating an extremely broad variety of subjects, which can range from important, trivial, insightful, and nonsensical topics.

Thought connectivity is often accompanied by other coinciding effects such as thought acceleration and creativity enhancement. It is most commonly induced under the influence of moderate dosages of psychedelic compounds, such as LSD, psilocybin, and mescaline. However, it can also occur to a lesser extent under the influence of dissociatives, stimulants, and cannabinoids.

Thought organization

Main article: Thought organization

Thought organization (also known as fluid intelligence)[126] is a state of mind in which one's ability to analyze and categorize conceptual information using a systematic and logical thought process is considerably increased.[127][128][129] It seemingly occurs through reducing thoughts which are unrelated or irrelevant to the topic at hand, therefore improving one's capacity for a structured and cohesive thought stream.[127][130] This effect also seems to allow the person to hold a greater amount of relevant information (as evidenced by language comprehension increases)[129] in their train of thought which can be useful for extended mental calculations, articulating ideas, and analyzing logical arguments.

Thought organization is often accompanied by other coinciding effects such as analysis enhancement and thought connectivity. It is most commonly induced under the influence of mild dosages of stimulant and nootropic compounds, such as amphetamine, methylphenidate, and Noopept. However, this effect can occur to a lesser extent under the influence of certain cannabis strains and spontaneously during psychedelic states. It is also worth noting that the same compounds which induce this mind state at light to moderate dosages can often result in the opposite effect of thought disorganization at heavier dosages.[128][130][131]

Wakefulness

Main article: Wakefulness

Wakefulness is an increased ability to stay conscious without feeling sleepy combined with a decreased need to sleep.[132] It is contrasted with stimulation in that it does not directly increase one's energy levels above a normal baseline but instead produces feelings of a wakeful, well-rested, and alert state.[133][134] If one is sleepy before using this substance, the impulse to sleep will fade, keeping one’s eyes open will become easier, and the cognitive fog of exhaustion will be reduced.[135] However, sufficiently accumulated sleep deficiency can overpower or negate this effect in extreme cases.[133]

Wakefulness is most commonly induced under the influence of moderate dosages of a wide variety of compounds such as stimulants, nootropics, and psychedelics. However, it is worth noting that the few compounds which selectively induce this effect without a number of other accompanying effects are referred to as eugeroics or wakefulness-promoting agents. These include modafinil[133][134][136][137] and armodafinil.[133]

See also

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